Stop the Killing; Stop the Starving; Stop the Lying

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! 

Mario Savio, Sproul Hall, University of California, Berkeley (1964-12-02).

The United States has launched a blockade of Venezuela that is designed to starve the people into surrender. That has been the policy toward Cuba since 1962, Chile from 1970 to 1973, and was the policy of the United States toward Nicaragua in the 1980s. This campaign of slow but steady starvation has been designed to force the people, because of the sapping of their physical energies, to surrender to United States demands that include accepting a new leadership which collaborates with United States economic and political interests.

The policies are so cruel that they have to be sanitized and reconceptualized to secure quiescent support from the US people. Here the mainstream media steps in. The political narrative, from the White House, to the Department of Defense, to the State Department, to corporate-funded think tanks projects both a demonic story about the “enemy,” and an altruistic story about United States goals. 

The targeted countries, whether they were/are Cuba, Chile under Salvador Allende, Nicaragua under Sandinista rule, or today the Maduro government of Venezuela are characterized in the following ways. As to economics, these regimes have failed to provide for the material needs of their people. The alleged history of them has been of unmitigated disaster: never mind the redistribution of wealth, the provisioning of education and healthcare to the vast majorities, the distribution of modest but adequate food for all. These policies, the official narrative says, are the cause of the problems citizens face, not the solutions. 

As to politics, the regimes the United States wishes to undermine are dictatorships. Never mind elections, the creation of local popular assemblies, support for mass organizations; authoritarianism prevails (of course, contrary to regimes such as Brazil, or Colombia where violence, intimidation, and inordinate power are in the hands of tiny ruling classes). If there are no elections, no more needs to be said. If there are elections, their authenticity must be questioned. If voice is given to people in barrios, trade unions, women’s organizations, and rural and urban neighborhoods at the expense of tiny wealthy classes, the country is by definition anti-democratic (in Orwellian terms, democracy is dictatorship and dictatorship is democracy).

In response to despotism, the United States, the indispensable nation, the exceptional nation, the icon of democracy must step in to right the wrongs. Unfortunately, creating democracy requires alliances with other states (who on their own could be demonized). Unfortunate but necessary policies might require military interventions, covert operations, economic sanctions and boycotts, and international campaigns to ostracize and isolate the transgressor nations.

And this history has been repeated over and over again. The Spanish/Cuban/American war provided the United States with the opportunity to defeat competing colonial powers in the Western Hemisphere and to establish a regional and global presence (including taking the Philippines and slaughtering thousands of its own citizens who thought they would at last control their own destinies). A two-ocean navy was followed by building a war machine in the twentieth century that was second to none. After occupying Cuba and Puerto Rico perpetual Marine interventions and occupations of countries in the Caribbean and Latin America ensued over the next century. But this history is conveniently left out of the prevailing narratives about demonic states and US altruism.

Ken Kesey wrote in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest about a “fog machine” that clouded the vision and rationality of the inmates of the insane asylum. As we read the daily reports on United States policy toward Venezuela, we can see how we in the United States are all inmates in an insane asylum.

Harry Targ